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Place-names, Language and the Anglo-Saxon Landscape

Place-names, Language and the Anglo-Saxon Landscape

Volume: 10
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 260
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  • Book Info
    Place-names, Language and the Anglo-Saxon Landscape
    Book Description:

    The landscape of modern England still bears the imprint of its Anglo-Saxon past. Villages and towns, fields, woods and forests, parishes and shires, all shed light on the enduring impact of the Anglo-Saxons. The essays in this volume explore the richness of the interactions between the Anglo-Saxons and their landscape: how they understood, described, and exploited the environments of which they were a part. Ranging from the earliest settlement period through to the urban expansion of late Anglo-Saxon England, this book draws on evidence from place-names, written sources, and the landscape itself to provide fresh insights into the topic. Subjects explored include the history of the study of place-names and the Anglo-Saxon landscape; landscapes of particular regions and the exploitation of particular landscape types; the mechanisms of the transmission and survival of written sources; and the problems and potentials of interdisciplinary research into the Anglo-Saxon landscape. Nicholas J. Higham is Professor of Early Medieval and Landscape History at the University of Manchester; Martin Ryan lectures in Medieval History at the University of Manchester. Contributors: Ann Cole, Linda M. Corrigan, Dorn Van Dommelen, Simon Draper, Gillian Fellows-Jensen, Della Hooke, Duncan Probert, Alexander R. Rumble, Martin J. Ryan, Peter A. Stokes, Richard Watson.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-934-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-ix)
  5. List of Contributors
    (pp. x-x)
  6. Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  7. 1 Place-Names, Language and the Anglo-Saxon Landscape: An Introduction
    (pp. 1-22)

    That the words people used and the names they gave to things are of significance to those who study the past is no great insight.³ What these names and words can tell us and how we should find this out, however, have been and will continue to be subject to intense debate. Medievalists, used to dealing with sources written in dead or ancestor languages, have long been aware of the problems of both what words mean and how meaning is created socially and historically, though unsurprisingly the approaches to these problems have varied considerably over time. The essays collected in...

  8. 2 The Landscape of Place-Name Studies
    (pp. 23-50)

    Those concerned with the study and interpretation of place-names in England have for a long time recognised the importance of locating the names within their topographical context. They have also advocated the use of place-names as clues to lost features of the Landscape. Thus, already in 1924 in the Introduction to the Survey of English Place-Names, W. J. Sedgefield observed:

    in many cases a knowledge of local configuration will be of great help. It may enable us to decide, for example, between confused suffixes. Thus when early forms leave us in doubt whether the original suffix was -hale or -hill,...

  9. 3 Place-Names as Travellers’ Landmarks
    (pp. 51-68)

    The last two or three decades have seen a blossoming of interest in topographical place-names: that is to say ones that describe hills and valleys, rivers large and small, wet places, woodland and farmland, and the roads, tracks and crossing places which link them together. It has become apparent that such place-name elements were consistently applied throughout Anglo-Saxon England so that, as a rule, what was identified as, say, a denu or a dūn by a Northumbrian would be recognised as such by someone from East Anglia, Mercia or Wessex.¹ This was so in spite of the fact that differences...

  10. 4 Light thrown by Scandinavian Place-Names on the Anglo-Saxon Landscape
    (pp. 69-84)

    Sometimes the light thrown by Scandinavian place-names on the Anglo-Saxon landscape only seems to offer a pale reflection of reality or perhaps more exactly a negative view of it, as in the map of England and southern Scotland (Figure 4.1), on which small open circles, black circles and open squares show the presence of settlements with names ending in the elements -, -thorp or hybrid names in -tūn.¹ It is known that such names in the Danelaw were coined in the Viking period, and areas north and east of the Danelaw boundary from which such symbols are practically absent tend...

  11. 5 Language and the Anglo-Saxon Landscape: Towards an Archaeological Interpretation of Place-Names in Wiltshire
    (pp. 85-104)

    The disciplines of place-name study and archaeology have long been central to our understanding of the Anglo-Saxon landscape. However, place-name scholars and archaeologists have not always seen eye-to-eye and mutual mistrust has occasionally prevailed. In this chapter I aim to demonstrate that the study of place-names in conjunction with archaeology can reveal new and important relationships between places and people in Anglo-Saxon England. Case studies are drawn from Wiltshire, where place-names containing a variety of Brittonic and Old English elements inform our understanding of such topics as the British cultural presence and the form and location of Anglo-Saxon settlements.


  12. 6 Hunting the Vikings in South Cumbria from Ambleside to Haverbrack
    (pp. 105-124)

    The purpose of this chapter is to consider what can be learned about the landscape of South Cumbria during the Anglo-Saxon period by the study of those currently extant place-names which can reasonably be believed to date from that period. Before starting on this discussion, it is necessary to define the area designated as South Cumbria. So, for the purposes of this chapter, South Cumbria covers all of Westmorland; the North Lonsdale ward of Lancashire, and the Copeland area of Cumberland.¹

    The northern boundary of Westmorland, which is also the boundary of the area under discussion here, follows a line...

  13. 7 Viking-Age Amounderness: A Reconsideration
    (pp. 125-142)

    Largely on the basis of place-name evidence, Viking settlements have been repeatedly identified within the environmental margins of the north-western landscape.¹ The aim of this chapter is to consider whether or not the evidence underpinning this model still holds true, using Amounderness Hundred as a case study.

    The first section reconsiders the environmental modelling underpinning this vision of the marginality of Viking settlements and concludes that existing models underestimate the scale and economic importance of the region’s historic wetlands. The second section explores chronological problems within the current philological model of Viking and non-Viking settlement. Using Domesday Book it is...

  14. 8 The Woodland Landscape of Early Medieval England
    (pp. 143-174)

    One of the greatest changes in the perception of the early landscape and in historical thought on the subject of early medieval woodland, has been in the quantity and nature of the woodland believed to have been present. In the late 1950s, we were presented with an idea that seems to owe more to notions of the American frontier than early medieval England – dense areas of primeval woodland in many regions waiting to be cleared by intrepid Anglo-Saxon colonists. There was even a notion of ‘mother’ villages sending out colonists to construct ‘daughter’ settlements in the wilderness. When W....

  15. 9 The Pre-Conquest Lands and Parish of Crediton Minster, Devon
    (pp. 175-194)

    The collegiate church of the Holy Cross and Mary at Crediton, Devon, had probably been in existence for about 800 years by the time that the Reformation deprived it of both its college and its lands.² The earliest reference to a church at Crediton is in its putative foundation charter (S 255), which is dated 10 April 739.³ In its surviving form S 255 is a composite text written shortly after the Norman Conquest and includes interpolated material and an anachronistic boundary clause, yet it is clear that underlying the text is an authentic charter of Æthelheard, king of the...

  16. 10 Rewriting the Bounds: Pershore’s Powick and Leigh
    (pp. 195-206)

    The only surviving document from Anglo-Saxon Pershore is one of the more important charters that remain from pre-Conquest England. It records a grant of privileges and restoration of land ostensibly issued by King Edgar in favour of Pershore, and it is one of the so-called ‘Orthodoxorum’ group, a set of documents which has been the subject of much discussion among historians.² It survives as an original (but perhaps not authentic) single sheet, as well as some later copies, and the single sheet includes no fewer than fifteen distinct boundary clauses, all of which are in Old English.³ Of the later...

  17. 11 That ‘Dreary Old Question’: The Hide in Early Anglo-Saxon England
    (pp. 207-224)

    Maitland began the third essay in his magisterial Domesday Book and Beyond with something of an apology:

    What was the hide? However unwilling we may be to face this dreary old question, we can not escape it. At first sight it may seem avoidable by those who are interested in the general drift of national life, but have no desire to solve petty problems or face unnecessary difficulties ... Unfortunately, however, that question about the hide is ‘pre-judicial’ to all the great questions of early English history.’¹

    The question that was dreary and old at the end of the nineteenth...

  18. 12 Boroughs and Socio-Political Reconstruction in Late Anglo-Saxon England
    (pp. 225-240)

    King Alfred’s responses to the Viking raids of the ninth century are well known and well documented. Having fought back against imminent defeat at the hands of Viking armies, Alfred eventually embarked upon an impressive set of ‘reforms’. The scope of these reforms was dramatic and included the infusion of his court with scholars who began to translate key secular and religious writings into Anglo-Saxon. But Alfred also undertook a series of military reforms at about the same time. These reforms included a plan to divide the fyrd, a national army usually called up only during times of invasion, into...

  19. Index
    (pp. 241-246)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 247-247)